Red Sox

As Red Sox manager, Cora must keep conviction, honesty that got him job

As Red Sox manager, Cora must keep conviction, honesty that got him job

BOSTON -- Just as a batter can subconsciously play to avoid losing, rather than to win, a manager can operate with a fear of failure. Such an unwitting approach may have contributed to John Farrell’s downfall, and is an area where Alex Cora can set himself apart.

A lot has been written about the value of authenticity in leadership. It’s one thing to have the charisma and conviction needed to land a position of power. It’s another to take over a pressure-cooker job, like manager of the Red Sox, and carry the fortitude to stay true to yourself, continue to let those qualities shine.

Cora did not appear to pull any punches in his days with ESPN. The 42-year-old engaged in Twitter debates with media members and fans. And throughout his baseball life, he showed his colors.

Via Newsday’s Dave Lennon, here’s a scene from 2010 when Cora was with the Mets: 

Last year, Cora spoke out against the league office's rule requiring minorities always be interviewed.

Perhaps most interesting of all, when Chris Sale cut up White Sox jerseys, Cora was Dennis Eckersley-like in his assessment:

“What he did is not acceptable,” Cora said of Sale. “If I’m a veteran guy, I’m going to take exception. if I’m a young guy, I’m going to take exception. Because as a young guy on a team that is actually struggling right now, somebody has to show me the ropes of how to act as a big leaguer. And this is not the way you act as a big leaguer. Forget the trades, forget who you are.

“What you do in that clubhouse, you got to act like a professional. And that’s one thing my agent, Scott Boras, used to tell me when I got to the big leagues: act like a professional. Chris Sale didn’t do it. He’s not showing the veterans that you respect the game. He’s not showing the rookies how to be a big leaguer, and that’s what I take exception to.”

Take out Chris Sale’s name from the above quotation and insert David Price’s. Describes Price's incident with Eckersley perfectly, doesn't it? 

Now, no manager can say what they’re really thinking all the time. Cora’s not in the media anymore. His new job description is different. 

But when you consider the great success of Terry Francona -- and why he succeeded in this market beyond simply winning -- what stands out is how comfortable Francona appears in his own skin. How genuine he seems. 

There is a way to acknowledge, as a manager, when something is off. A way to do so gently but genuinely. A way to say what you feel -- and a way to say what you feel must be said -- while operating without fear of the players you manage. 

Ultimately, most every comment Francona makes is intended to shield his players. But Francona shows his personality as he goes (or if you want to be a bit cynical, he sells his personality marvelously). Those little self-deprecating jokes -- he charms the hell out of everyone. The media, the fans. The Cult of Tito has a real following, because he feels real. Because he is real. 

Farrell was not fake. But he did have a hard time letting his personality come across consistently, to his detriment. He was reserved, in part because that just appeared to be his nature. But the job must have, with time, forced him to withdraw even further. As everything Farrell said (and did) was picked apart in the market, it likely became easiest just to play it safe in every facet -- speaking to the media, speaking to players.

The Sox’ biggest undertaking in 2017 seemed to be a nothing-to-see-here campaign. It was all fine. No David Ortiz, no home runs, no problem. Manny Machado was loved. The media was the problem, not any attitude or attitudes inside the clubhouse. Base running was a net positive -- you name it, none of it was ever tabbed as a problem publicly by the manager, or anyone else.

A perpetually defensive stance was the public image. Issues were never addressed or poorly defused, so questions always lingered.

Maybe Cora cannot admonish Sale as he did a year ago now that he’s managing Sale. Not publicly, anyway. But even as a quote-unquote player's manager, the job still requires authority, which should be doled out just as it was earned: through authentic comments and actions.

"My job as the manager is to set the culture, the expectations, the standards, the baseball," Cora’s present boss, Astros manager A.J. Hinch, said the night the Astros clinched the pennant. "It's the players' job to develop the chemistry.

“And obviously good teams always say that, we want chemistry, and what comes first, the chemistry or the winning. But when you have it, you want to hold on to it as much as possible . . . We've got a good thing going because we have one common goal, we have one common standard, and that's to be your best every day."

Cora has to remain true to his best, too -- not what he thinks, and hears, and reads, people want his best to be.

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Drellich: These Red Sox can do no wrong

Drellich: These Red Sox can do no wrong

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- We’re not firing on all cylinders yet. The scary thing is, we’re not even playing our best. Just wait until we really get going.

You’ve heard these phrases and their variants before. They’re typically worthless.

RED SOX 9, ANGELS 0

Someone is always performing poorly. Always. That’s life in a sport where the best teams lose 40 percent of the time, where the best hitters fail 7 times out of 10, and all the other cliches.

What may be most remarkable about the Red Sox’ 15-2 run is that for an extended time, we are seeing a baseball team actually bump up against its ceiling. They have four grand slams. There are two major- league teams that have only three wins.

They are actually playing their best.

“It’s very rare,” Alex Cora said Wednesday night, after becoming the first rookie manager in history to begin his career with 15 wins in 17 games. “There’s always something that is not going with the others. But right now, defense, pitching and offense -- base running too. You know, we were aggressive today  [when Eduardo Nunez was thrown out trying to stretch a double] but we’ll take that one. We’re doing better. We’re doing a lot better. And I don’t know, man. It’s just, it’s just fun to watch.

“I know how good they are. But it’s just something about them, they make you feel confident. You show up every day to work, I enjoy it, I’m having a blast with them. Not only in the dugout, but in the clubhouse. It’s fun. It’s fun to be around them. It’s a good group, and we’re growing together, we’re learning together and you know, we’re going to keep getting better."

“All systems go” rarely has more validity as a description for a baseball team than it does the Red Sox at present.

MORE DRELLICH

“I’ve been fortunate to be on some good teams and I’m sure I have [had similar stretches], but not, I don’t think, to this extent, where we’re playing good defense, we’re throwing the ball so well,” said Mitch Moreland, who homered Wednesday night in a 9-0 win over the Angels. “We’re coming up with big hits. Everybody in the clubhouse has done something to help the team win. It might just be because it’s fresh on my mind, but it stands out as good a ball as I think I’ve been a part of in the big leagues.”

Imagine how good a team can be if everyone is healthy and performing well. (By the way, the Sox are missing Xander Bogaerts.) But the best 17-game start in the 118-year history of a franchise has been inclusive of virtually everyone. Even Blake Swihart is getting some at-bats in these blowouts. 

Perhaps the bullpen feels a little left out lately, because the Sox are romping. These are thoroughly dominating performances, led by starting pitching. Rick Porcello -- who we may now more often mention won a Cy Young award two years ago -- has one walk in four starts. He’s 4-0 with a 1.40 ERA.

Rafael Devers, meanwhile, is the youngest Sox player to hit a grand slam since Tony Conigliaro in 1965.

Things will change. They’ll get ugly at some point. For now, though, there’s no waiting to see what a team looks like when everything is actually working. 

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Red Sox continue rolling with 9-0 rout of Angels

Red Sox continue rolling with 9-0 rout of Angels

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Everything is going right for the Boston Red Sox, and it has propelled them to the best start in the franchise's long history.

Rafael Devers hit his first career grand slam, Rick Porcello threw six scoreless innings and the Red Sox improved to 15-1 since losing on opening day with a 9-0 win over the Los Angeles Angels on Wednesday night.

Mitch Moreland had four RBI, including a two-run homer in the ninth, and J.D Martinez hit a solo shot in the seventh to help the Red Sox to their sixth consecutive win.

The Red Sox are the fifth team since the American League was established in 1901 to post at least 14 wins in their first 17 games.

"We've had a pretty good run at it here, pretty much the whole season so far," Moreland said. "It seems like one through nine, everybody is kind of stepping up. Obviously, been throwing the ball really well on the mound. Just playing a real complete game, a clean game right now."

Devers hit a home run for the second game in a row, putting his third of the season off the wall in right field just over the yellow line to make it 6-0 after Moreland singled to score Mookie Betts.

After getting out of a bases-loaded jam in the first, Porcello (4-0) cruised to his league-leading fourth win. He gave up six hits and struck out six without issuing a walk.

The Red Sox took a 1-0 lead in the first. Hanley Ramirez doubled to center, with the ball landing just past a leaping Mike Trout, and Moreland drove him in with a single to right.

"Our offense is really setting the tone right now and doing an incredible job. I mean, they are doing a great job of getting on their starter early," Porcello said. "The runs they are putting up, we're just going out there and attacking the strike zone and get outs and chew up as much of the game as possible."

Tyler Skaggs (2-1) gave up six runs and eight hits in 4 1/3 innings for the Angels, who have lost two straight following a seven-game winning streak.

The Angels have been outscored 19-1 through the first two games of the series.

"You're going to run into some waves like this where it just doesn't seem like you're putting things together, but we're a much better offensive team than in the last couple of years," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Red Sox: SS Xander Bogaerts (ankle) took ground balls during batting practice, but manager Alex Cora said "there's no rush" to bring him back. . RHP Steven Wright (knee) will start at Triple-A Pawtucket on Friday. . LHP Bobby Poyner (hamstring) will be sent out on a rehab assignment soon, with weather likely determining where he will go.

Angels: Shohei Ohtani is expected to make his next start after being limited to two innings Tuesday because of a blister on the middle finger of his right hand. Ohtani will be available to hit against the Red Sox on Thursday. . RHP JC Ramirez underwent surgery to repair a torn UCL on Tuesday.

CALIFORNIA SUN

The Red Sox have not been good in the Pacific Time Zone, posting a .438 win percentage (89-114) when playing on the West Coast over the previous 16 seasons. After not winning a series at the Angels, Oakland or Seattle last season, they already have one under their belt.

AT HOME ON THE ROAD

Devers extended his road hitting streak to 12 games dating back to Sept. 18, 2017, and it was his fourth homer in that span. He has a hit in 19 of his last 21 road games going back to last season.

UP NEXT

Red Sox: LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (1-0, 3.72) gave up one run in six innings against Baltimore on Friday. Rodriguez's only career start at Angel Stadium was a brief one, giving up seven runs in 1 2/3 innings in 2015.

Angels: RHP Nick Tropeano (1-0, 0.00) held Kansas City scoreless in 6 2/3 innings to get the win Thursday. Tropeano has never faced the Red Sox.

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